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Summary Metaphysical necessity is typically considered to be stronger (or narrower) than physical necessity but weaker (or broader) than logical and conceptual necessity (there are exceptions, however). Traditional examples of metaphysical necessity involve theoretical identity statements such as "Water is H2O" and "Gold is the element with the atomic number 79"; both physically and metaphysically necessary, but not logically or conceptually necessary. It is sometimes thought that the various narrower notions of necessity could be defined by restriction of metaphysical necessity.
Key works Although Kripke 1980 will surely remain the classic on the topic of metaphysical necessity, more recent discussion is abundant. For a discussion of the relationship between different types of necessity and the idea that narrower notions of necessity could be defined by restriction of metaphysical necessity, see Fine 2002. Fine 1994 presents an influential case in favour of reducing metaphysical necessity to essence, different aspects of which have since been discussed, e.g., in Hale 1996, Shalkowski 1997, Lowe 1998, Zalta 2006, Cameron 2010, and Correia 2012. For discussion on Kripke's and Putnam's contributions to the literature, see for instance Edgington 2004Soames 2011, Ballarin 2013, and Tahko 2013.
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  1. Erik Anderson (2005). How General is Generalized Scientific Essentialism? Synthese 144 (3):373 - 379.
    I look at a recent argument offered in defense of a doctrine which I will call generalized scientific essentialism. This is the doctrine according to which, not only are some facts about substance composition metaphysically necessary, but, in addition, some facts about substance behavior are metaphysically necessary. More specifically, so goes the argument, not only is water necessarily composed of H2O and salt is necessarily composed of NaCl, but, in addition, salt necessarily dissolves in water. If this argument is sound, (...)
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  2. Roberta Ballarin (2013). The Necessity of Origin: A Long and Winding Route. Erkenntnis 78 (2):353-370.
    In the last 30 years much philosophical discussion has been generated by Kripke’s proof of the necessity of origin for material objects presented in footnote 56 of ‘Naming and Necessity’. I consider the two most popular reconstructions of Kripke’s argument: one appealing to the necessary sufficiency of origin, and the other employing a strong independence principle allegedly derived from the necessary local nature of prevention. I argue that, to achieve a general result, both reconstructions presuppose an implicit Humean atomistic thesis (...)
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  3. George Bealer (2006). A Definition of Necessity. Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):17–39.
    In the history of philosophy, especially its recent history, a number of definitions of necessity have been ventured. Most people, however, find these definitions either circular or subject to counterexamples. I will show that, given a broadly Fregean conception of properties, necessity does indeed have a noncircular counterexample-free definition.
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  4. Stephen Biggs (2011). Abduction and Modality. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (2):283-326.
    This paper introduces a modal epistemology that centers on inference to the best explanation (i.e. abduction). In introducing this abduction-centered modal epistemology, the paper has two main goals. First, it seeks to provide reasons for pursuing an abduction-centered modal epistemology by showing that this epistemology aids a popular stance on the mind-body problem and allows an appealing approach to modality. Second, the paper seeks to show that an abduction-centered modal epistemology can work by showing that abduction can establish claims about (...)
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  5. Ross Cameron (2010). On the Source of Necessity. In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffman (eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic and Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
    Simon Blackburn posed a dilemma for any realist attempt to identify the source of necessity. Either the facts appealed to to ground modal truth are themselves necessary, or they are contingent. If necessary, we begin the process towards regress; but if contingent, we undermine the necessity whose source we wanted to explain. Bob Hale attempts to blunt both horns of this dilemma. In this paper I examine their respective positions and attempt to clear up some confusions on either side. I (...)
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  6. Ross Cameron (2009). What's Metaphysical About Metaphysical Necessity? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (1):1 - 16.
    I begin by contrasting three approaches one can take to the distinction between the essential and accidental properties: an ontological, a deflationary, and a mind-dependent approach. I then go on to apply that distinction to the necessary a posteriori, and defend the deflationist view. Finally I apply the distinction to modal truth in general and argue that the deflationist position lets us avoid an otherwise pressing problem for the actualist: the problem of accounting for the source of modal truth.
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  7. Ross P. Cameron (2010). The Grounds of Necessity. Philosophy Compass 5 (4):348-358.
    Some truths are necessary, others could have been false. Why? What is the source of the distinction between the necessary and the contingent? What's so special about the necessary truths that account for their necessity? In this article, we look at some of the most promising accounts of the grounds of necessity: David Lewis' reduction of necessity to truth at all possible worlds; Kit Fine's reduction of necessity to essence; and accounts of necessity that take the distinction between the necessary (...)
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  8. Ross P. Cameron (2010). Necessity and Triviality. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (3):401-415.
    In this paper I argue that there are some sentences whose truth makes no demands on the world, being trivially true in that their truth-conditions are trivially met. I argue that this does not amount to their truth-conditions being met necessarily: we need a non-modal understanding of the notion of the demands the truth of a sentence makes, lest we be blinded to certain conceptual possibilities. I defend the claim that the truths of pure mathematics and set theory are trivially (...)
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  9. Ross P. Cameron (2007). The Contingency of Composition. Philosophical Studies 136 (1):99-121.
    There is widespread disagreement as to what the facts are concerning just when a collection of objects composes some further object; but there is widespread agreement that, whatever those facts are, they are necessary. I am unhappy to simply assume this, and in this paper I ask whether there is reason to think that the facts concerning composition hold necessarily. I consider various reasons to think so, but find fault with each of them. I examine the theory of composition as (...)
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  10. Nicola Ciprotti & Luca Moretti (2009). Logical Pluralism is Compatible with Monism About Metaphysical Modality. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (2):275-284.
    Beall and Restall 2000; 2001; 2006 advocate a comprehensive pluralist approach to logic, which they call Logical Pluralism, according to which there is not one true logic but many equally acceptable logical systems. They maintain that Logical Pluralism is compatible with monism about metaphysical modality, according to which there is just one correct logic of metaphysical modality. Wyatt 2004 contends that Logical Pluralism is incompatible with monism about metaphysical modality. We first suggest that if Wyatt were right, Logical Pluralism would (...)
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  11. Fabrice Correia (2012). On the Reduction of Necessity to Essence. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (3):639-653.
    In his influential paper ‘‘Essence and Modality’’, Kit Fine argues that no account of essence framed in terms of metaphysical necessity is possible, and that it is rather metaphysical necessity which is to be understood in terms of essence. On his account, the concept of essence is primitive, and for a proposition to be metaphysically necessary is for it to be true in virtue of the nature of all things. Fine also proposes a reduction of conceptual and logical necessity in (...)
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  12. Cian Dorr (2004). Non-Symmetric Relations. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1:155-92.
    Presupposing that most predicates do not correspond directly to genuine relations, I argue that all genuine relations are symmetric. My main argument depends on the premise that there are no brute necessities, interpreted so as to require logical and metaphysical necessity to coincide for sentences composed entirely of logical vocabulary and primitive predicates. Given this premise, any set of purportedly primitive predicates by which one might hope to express the facts about non-symmetric relations order their relata will generate an objectionable (...)
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  13. Alice Drewery (2005). Essentialism and the Necessity of the Laws of Nature. Synthese 144 (3):381-396.
    In this paper I discuss and evaluate different arguments for the view that the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. I conclude that essentialist arguments from the nature of natural kinds fail to establish that essences are ontologically more basic than laws, and fail to offer an a priori argument for the necessity of all causal laws. Similar considerations carry across to the argument from the dispositionalist view of properties, which may end up placing unreasonable constraints on property identity across (...)
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  14. Dorothy Edgington (2004). Two Kinds of Possibility. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 78 (1):1–22.
    I defend a version of Kripke's claim that the metaphysically necessary and the knowable a priori are independent. On my version, there are two independent families of modal notions, metaphysical and epistemic, neither stronger than the other. Metaphysical possibility is constrained by the laws of nature. Logical validity, I suggest, is best understood in terms of epistemic necessity.
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  15. Delia Graff Fara (2012). Possibility Relative to a Sortal. In Karen Bennett & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, volume 7. Oxford University Press.
    This paper is an informal presentation of the ideas presented formally in (”Relative-Sameness Counterpart Theory”. Relative-sameness relations -- such as being the same person as -- are like David Lewis’s “counterpart” relations in the following respects: (i) they may hold over time or across worlds between objects that aren’t cross-time or cross-world identical (I propose), and (ii) there are a multiplicity of them, different ones of which may be variously invoked in different contexts. They differ from his counterpart relations, however, (...)
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  16. Robert Farrell (1983). Metaphysical Necessity and Epistemic Location. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (3):283 – 294.
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  17. Robert Farrell (1981). Metaphysical Necessity is Not Logical Necessity. Philosophical Studies 39 (2):141 - 153.
    Kripke and putnam have argued that metaphysical necessity is truth in all possible worlds, Hence is a kind of logica necessity; it is this claim I argue against. My argument proceeds by way of my considering and elaborating an example to show that although 'gold has atomic number 79' be counted a metaphysically necessary truth, There is a possible world in which it is false; it turns out to be for all I show here at most a physical necessity, True (...)
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  18. Kit Fine (2002). Varieties of Necessity. In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford Up. 253-281.
    It is argued that there are three main forms of necessity--the metaphysical, the natural and the normative--and that none of them is reducible to the others or to any other form of necessity. In arguing for a distinctive form of natural necessity, it is necessary to refute a version of the doctrine of scientific essentialism; and in arguing for a distinctive form of normative necessity, it is necessary to refute certain traditional and contemporary versions of ethical naturalism.
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  19. Bruce L. Gordon (2002). Maxwell–Boltzmann Statistics and the Metaphysics of Modality. Synthese 133 (3):393 - 417.
    Two arguments have recently been advanced that Maxwell-Boltzmann particles areindistinguishable just like Bose–Einstein and Fermi–Dirac particles. Bringing modalmetaphysics to bear on these arguments shows that ontological indistinguishabilityfor classical (MB) particles does not follow. The first argument, resting on symmetryin the occupation representation for all three cases, fails since peculiar correlationsexist in the quantum (BE and FD) context as harbingers of ontic indistinguishability,while the indistinguishability of classical particles remains purely epistemic. The secondargument, deriving from the classical limits of quantum statistical partition (...)
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  20. Bob Hale (2004). Putnam's Retreat: Some Reflections on Hilary Putnam's Changing Views About Metaphysical Necessity. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 28 (1):351–378.
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  21. Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.) (2010). Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
    The philosophy of modality investigates necessity and possibility, and related notions--are they objective features of mind-independent reality? If so, are they irreducible, or can modal facts be explained in other terms? This volume presents new work on modality by established leaders in the field and by up-and-coming philosophers. Between them, the papers address fundamental questions concerning realism and anti-realism about modality, the nature and basis of facts about what is possible and what is necessary, the nature of modal knowledge, modal (...)
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  22. By Toby Handfield (2004). Counterlegals and Necessary Laws. Philosophical Quarterly 54 (216):402–419.
    Necessitarian accounts of the laws of nature have an apparent difficulty in accounting for counterlegal conditionals because, despite appearing to be substantive, on the necessitarian thesis they are vacuous. I argue that the necessitarian may explain the apparently substantive content of such conditionals by pointing out the presuppositions of counterlegal discourse. The typical presupposition is that a certain conceptual possibility has been realized; namely, that necessitarianism is false. (The idea of conceptual possibility is explicated in terms of recent work in (...)
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  23. Reina Hayaki (2005). The Transience of Possibility. European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 1 (2):25-36.
    The standard view of metaphysical necessity is that it is truth in all possible worlds, and therefore that the correct modal logic for metaphysical necessity is S5, in models of which all worlds are accessible from each other. I argue that S5 cannot be the correct logic for metaphysical necessity because accessibility is not symmetric: there are possible worlds that are accessible from ours but from which our world is not accessible. There are (or could be) some individuals who, if (...)
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  24. Eli Hirsch (1986). Metaphysical Necessity and Conceptual Truth. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):243-256.
  25. Janine Jones (2002). Possibly Turning Out and Metaphysical Possibility. Philosophia 29 (1-4):261-276.
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  26. Michael Jubien (2009). Possibility. Oxford University Press.
    Possibility offers a new analysis of the metaphysical concepts of possibility and necessity, one that does not rely on any sort of "possible worlds." The analysis proceeds from an account of the notion of a physical object and from the positing of properties and relations. It is motivated by considerations about how we actually speak of and think of objects. Michael Jubien discusses several closely related topics, including different purported varieties of possible worlds, the doctrine of "essentialism," natural kind terms (...)
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  27. Boris Kment (2006). Counterfactuals and the Analysis of Necessity. Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):237–302.
  28. M. Kneale (1937). Logical and Metaphysical Necessity. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 38:253 - 268.
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  29. Saul A. Kripke (1980/1998). Naming and Necessity. Harvard University Press.
  30. John-Michael Kuczynski (2010). Intensionality, Modality, Rationality: Some Presemantic Considerations. Journal of Pragmatics 42 (8):2314-2346.
    On the basis of arguments put forth by (Kripke, 1977a) and (Kripke, 1980), it is widely held that one can sometimes rationally accept propositions of the form "P and not-P" and also that there are necessary a posteriori truths. We will find that Kripke's arguments for these views appear probative only so long as one fails to distinguish between semantics and presemantics—between the literal meanings of sentences, on the one hand, and the information on the basis of which one identifies (...)
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  31. Henrik Lagerlund, Sten Lindström & Rysiek Sliwinski (eds.) (2006). Modality Matters: Twenty-Five Essays in Honour of Krister Segerberg. Uppsala Philosophical Studies 53.
  32. Stephen Leeds (2007). Physical and Metaphysical Necessity. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 88 (4):458–485.
    I propose a different way of thinking about metaphysical and physical necessity: namely that the fundamental notion of necessity is what would ordinarily be called "truth in all physically possible worlds" – a notion which includes the standard physical necessities and the metaphysical ones as well; I suggest that the latter are marked off not as a stricter kind of necessity but by their epistemic status. One result of this reconceptualization is that the Descartes-Kripke argument against naturalism need no longer (...)
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  33. Stephen Leeds (2001). Possibility: Physical and Metaphysical. In Carl Gillett & Barry M. Loewer (eds.), Physicalism and Its Discontents. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  34. Brian Leftow (2012). God and Necessity. Oxford University Press.
    Modal basics -- Some solutions -- Theist solutions -- The ontology of possibility -- Modal truthmakers -- Modality and the divine nature -- Deity as essential -- Against deity theories -- The role of deity -- The biggest bang -- Divine concepts -- Concepts, syntax, and actualism -- Modality: basic notions -- The genesis of secular modality -- Modal reality -- Essences -- Non-secular modalities -- Theism and modal semantics -- Freedom, preference, and cost -- Explaining modal status -- Explaining (...)
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  35. Sten Lindström (2006). On the Proper Treatment of Quantification in Contexts of Logical and Metaphysical Modalities. In Henrik Lagerlund, Sten Lindström & Rysiek Sliwinski (eds.), Modality Matters: Twenty-Five Essays in Honour of Krister Segerberg. Uppsala Philosophical Studies 53.
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  36. Øystein Linnebo (2007). Modality and Tense: Philosophical Papers – Kit Fine. Philosophical Quarterly 57 (227):294–297.
  37. Vassilios Livanios (2014). Radical Non-Dispositionalism and the Permutation Problem. Axiomathes 24 (1):45-61.
    Radical non-dispositionalism is the view according to which the actual causal/nomic roles of natural properties are totally irrelevant to their de re modal representation. The major difficulty besetting all forms of radical non-dispositionalism is that the latter allegedly allows the metaphysical possibility of two natural properties swapping their actual causal/nomic roles. The aim of this paper is to provide a plausible solution to that problem. To this end, I describe the necessary steps that a proponent of the view may take (...)
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  38. E. J. Lowe (1998). The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity, and Time. Oxford University Press.
    Lowe argues in this fascinating new study that metaphysics should be restored to centrality in philosophy, as the most fundamental form of inquiry, whose findings underpin those of all other disciplines. He portrays metaphysics as charting the possibilities of existence, by identifying the categories of being and the relations between them. He then sets out his own metaphysical system, with which he seeks to answer many of the most vexed questions in philosophy.
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  39. Ari Maunu (2003). No Belief Is Contingently True. Auslegung 26 (2):67-75.
    It is commonly held, plausibly, that many true beliefs are true only contingently, that is, are actually true (or true with respect to the actual world) but would be false were the world in some relevant ways otherwise (i.e. are false with respect to some other possible worlds). However, a radically different approach, according to which no belief is contingently true, is entirely defensible. The key point in this alternative approach is that each belief concerns the world in which the (...)
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  40. Stephen K. McLeod (2006). Why Essentialism Requires Two Senses of Necessity. Ratio 19 (1):77–91.
    I set up a dilemma, concerning metaphysical modality de re, for the essentialist opponent of a ‘two senses’ view of necessity. I focus specifically on Frank Jackson's two-dimensional account in his From Metaphysics to Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). I set out the background to Jackson's conception of conceptual analysis and his rejection of a two senses view. I proceed to outline two purportedly objective (as opposed to epistemic) differences between metaphysical and logical necessity. I conclude that since one (...)
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  41. Paul McNamara (1993). Does the Actual World Actually Exist? Philosophical Studies 69 (1):59 - 81.
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  42. Adam Murray & Jessica M. Wilson (2012). Relativized Metaphysical Modality. In Karen Bennett & Dean Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics. Oxford University Press. 189.
    It is commonly supposed that metaphysical modal claims are to be evaluated with respect to a single domain of possible worlds: a claim is metaphysically necessary just in case it is true in every possible world, and metaphysically possible just in case it is true in some possible world. We argue that the standard understanding is incorrect; rather, whether a given claim is metaphysically necessary or possible is relative to which world is indicatively actual. We motivate our view by attention (...)
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  43. Daniel Nolan (2011). The Extent of Metaphysical Necessity. Philosophical Perspectives 25 (1):313-339.
    A lot of philosophers engage in debates about what claims are “metaphysically necessary”, and a lot more assume with little argument that some classes of claims have the status of “metaphysical necessity”. I think we can usefully replace questions about metaphysical necessity with five other questions which each capture some of what people may have had in mind when talking about metaphysical necessity. This paper explains these five other questions, and then discusses the question “how much of metaphysics is metaphysically (...)
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  44. Harold Noonan (2013). Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kripke and Naming and Necessity. Routledge.
    Saul Kripke is one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century. His most celebrated work, Naming and Necessity , makes arguably the most important contribution to the philosophy of language and metaphysics in recent years. Asking fundamental questions – how do names refer to things in the world? Do objects have essential properties? What are natural kind terms and to what do they refer? – he challenges prevailing theories of language and conceptions of metaphysics, especially the descriptivist account (...)
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  45. Harold W. Noonan (2012). The Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kripke and Naming and Necessity. Routledge.
  46. C. Peacocke (1997). Metaphysical Necessity: Understanding, Truth and Epistemology. Mind 106 (423):521-574.
    This paper presents an account of the understanding of statements involving metaphysical modality, together with dovetailing theories of their truth conditions and epistemology. The account makes modal truth an objective matter, whilst avoiding both Lewisian modal realism and mind-dependent or expressivist treatments of the truth conditions of modal sentences. The theory proceeds by formulating constraints a world-description must meet if it is to represent a genuine possibility. Modal truth is fixed by the totality of the constraints. To understand modal discourse (...)
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  47. Alvin Plantinga (1992). The Nature of Necessity. Clarendon Press.
    This book, one of the first full-length studies of the modalities to emerge from the debate to which Saul Kripke, David Lewis, Ruth Marcus, and others are contributing, is an exploration and defense of the notion of modality de re, the idea that objects have both essential and accidental properties. Plantinga develops his argument by means of the notion of possible worlds and ranges over such key problems as the nature of essence, transworld identity, negative existential propositions, and the existence (...)
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  48. Philip L. Quinn (1982). Metaphysical Necessity and Modal Logics. The Monist 65 (4):444-455.
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  49. Lloyd Reinhardt (1978). Metaphysical Possibility. Mind 87 (346):210-229.
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  50. David Robb (2007). Power Essentialism. Philosophical Topics 35 (1-2):343-58.
    Press a square paperweight into a lump of soft clay. What results is a square impression. Could a circular impression have resulted instead? The answer seems to be No. In this paper, I take this and similar examples as evidence for power essentialism, the thesis that the powers bestowed by a property are essential to it. I spend most of the paper trying to answer a few arguments against the evidential value of such examples: (1) there is the appearance of (...)
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